Though it’s nothing like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, the 2018 Toyota Camry could perform a similar function. It is an all-new four-door sedan that is intended to slow the tsunami of crossover sport utility vehicles that threaten to inundate the marketplace.
Sure, Toyota has plenty of its own SUVs and crossovers, including the truck-based Sequoia, Land Cruiser, and 4Runner, and the crossover Highlander and RAV4, to tantalize buyers. But it also has demonstrated strength with the Camry, a best-selling midsize sedan for 15 straight years. Though it has declined recently, as customers flock to crossovers and SUVs, it still is a giant in the marketplace. So, there’s no hint that Toyota plans to ease off on its development of standard sedans, which once were the gold standard in the U.S.
Best in 33 Years
Enter the 2018 Camry, which the company says is the best it has produced in the marque’s 33-year history. It is chockablock full of new styling, safety, entertainment, and other innovations to tantalize buyers, many of whom are attracted to the name because of its enviable reputation for long-term durability and reliability.
But this Camry also has the looks, value, and feel to appeal to a broad swath of the motoring public. There are 10 versions with three different powertrains, two transmissions, and starting prices that range from the base L at $24,380 up to $35,835 for the XSE V-6. Three hybrid trim levels are also available: HV LE at $28,685, HV SE at $30,385, and HV XLE at $33,235. Driven for this review is the LE four-cylinder. It’s likely to be the best seller.
Like the other four-cylinder models, its 2.5-liter engine makes 203 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, which is more than adequate for any driving situation on public roads. Its city/highway/combined fuel consumption is EPA rated at 28/39/32 miles to the gallon.
For customers who seek more sporting sensations, Toyota offers the Camry S versions, which offer tighter steering, a slightly stiffer suspension system, and more aggressive transmission shifting. There are four trim levels with hybrid, four-cylinder, and V-6 powertrains.
Gasoline-engine models all get the power to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted, with steering wheel paddles on S models. Hybrids use a smooth gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission.
Quality Bar Set
In the Camry tradition, all of the 2018 models boast stylish interiors with quality trim and workmanship. The LE’s seats, covered in soft but durable cloth, are supportive and comfortable for long-distance cruising. The outboard back seats have abundant head and knee room, and the center-rear position, despite a hard cushion and floor hump, can accommodate an adult.
The steering is precise, with a good on-center feel. Along with the Camry’s new double wishbone independent rear suspension system, it contributes to capable handling on twisting roads.
The ride is cushy without being mushy and the only noticeable intrusion is some engine noise under hard acceleration. If you’d like something quieter, you can order the gasoline-electric hybrid, which has a fuel economy rating of 51/53/52 mpg. In LE trim, it costs $3,800 more.
Toyota’s Safety Sense is standard and includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, brake hold, hill start assist, and automatic headlight high beams. Other safety equipment, such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking, is standard on more expensive trim levels. Be careful, when the transmission is inadvertently left in “drive” and the engine is turned off, the Camry does not automatically shift into “park.” It rolls. Overall, however, this new Camry has the stuff to resist the crossover deluge.